A lot of metal fans will tell you that the genre has taken them on journeys to dark, unexpected, and wholly beautiful places, leading them to question nature, reality, and the meaning of existence. Well, welcome to parenthood! It’s pretty much the same, and often twice as loud. Parenting is livin’ after midnight by default at lot of the time, and two die-hard metal fans and parents, Craig Hayes and Matt Hinch, are here with Full Metal Parenting — a series devoted to sharing tales from parenthood’s trenches, with lessons torn straight from metal’s scriptures.
Basically since the genre’s inception Heavy Metal has dealt with the topic of religion. Mostly negatively, mind you. At least the bands I like anyway. And the somewhat ambiguous stance Black Sabbath takes on the matter. But for decades the good and righteous have looked upon heavy metal as inherently evil. The staunchly anti-Christian or overtly Satanic black and death metal bands certainly do their best to give the Bible thumpers something to cry about. And we love them for it. But how much of those messages, and their often hateful nature do we want to impose upon, or at least fail to censor our children from? So in case you haven’t guessed already, FMP’s latest and long overdue installment is all about God! And not Rob Halford. I’m not much of Judas Priest fan.
A little history, if you will. I was born and raised a good, God-fearing (guilty) Catholic. I played right into it for quite a while too. First Communion, Confirmation, all that. I was even an altar boy for a bit. (Before you ask, no.) But coincidentally enough, my attitude towards the Church and Christianity in general started to change around the time I started listening to metal. SEE! THE DEVIL!!! That happened to also be the time where I was developing into an adult and questioning the world around me. As I took a look around I realized that basically, God was bullshit. All of a sudden none it made any sense to me. The hypocrisy was undeniable. “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Uh, the Crusades much? “God loves all his children!” Except the ones who don’t believe in Him. “God has a plan for him.” What need does an all powerful God have for a three-year-old kid? Or a baby? And how does His plan necessitate a child wandering out in the night and freezing to death in the street? I was done before I left high school.
The clean break thing is a little harder. And here’s where my own hypocrisy begins. My family is still very faithful so in order to appease them (“Honour Thy Mother and Father”) I would still attend church sometimes. Got married in one. Baptised my kids Catholic. And the whole time I’m thinking “This is bullshit.” Well, the marriage thing isn’t bullshit. Just the God part. But I knew that’s what my family wanted and since I had no fear of lightning striking the heathen in His midst I just went along with it. Easier than trying to reason with them.
But I more or less raise my kids Catholic despite my disbelief in everything they’re taught in religion class. We don’t go to church as a family or anything, there are no crosses above the door, but I do send them to a Catholic school. My wife and I did school photography for a while and noticed a big difference in the behaviour of the children between the Catholic and public systems. The Catholics were better behaved so that played into it. And the family thing. When it comes time for them to choose a high school, the choice is theirs. They can attend the Catholic one if they want. I made my choice, they can make theirs. But if I had to move them to a public school, or they wanted to, I’d have no qualms about it.
But you can bet by the time they reach the age that they are faced with their own Confirmation (basically a re-baptism) and choosing a high school I’ll be having some discussions with my girls. And not just about kilt length. Possibly with Deicide, maybe Nunslaughter playing in the background. I already do, really. My girls will come to me sometimes and ask me a question about some aspect of Christianity. My wife and I always begin our response with “Some people believe…”. I would start the same way if they asked me about my Buddhist practices. (For the record, Buddhism isn’t really considered a religion as much as it is a philosophy.)
I don’t want my kids growing up in a world of black and white, undying faith in what some religious bureaucrats chose to print in a book. And I don’t hide anything from them. I listen to all sorts of Satanic metal around them. I’m not going to hide anything based on anti-Christian message. They don’t notice but if they did I’d lay it out for them. Probably starting with “Some people believe…”. But as far as that goes it’s easy to explain how most if it is just shock value. It’s like with movies. It’s not real. They don’t really like metal anyway so I’m not too worried about them taking “ministrations to our Dark Lord Satan!!!” to heart and sacrificing the neighbour’s cattle in the backyard.
Nor am I too worried about them becoming die hard religious fundamentalists. In fact, my oldest has already started to look at things from a different angle. She believes in reincarnation (all three girls sort of do actually) and I think she is starting to realize the Bible is just stories. She doesn’t like going to church, even at school. And as far as her stance on homosexuality? She went against the hyper-religious grain there when she said “Love is love.” It helps that I have plenty of gay/lesbian family and friends.
Essentially you should be able to play just about anything you want around your kids (except pornogrind for example) and if you have a good healthy relationship with your kids, and you’ve taught them the difference between reality and fiction, you’re all good. I know there have been times when someone yells “Satan!!” on one of my CDs and kids might gasp. “Daddy, they said Satan!” And my response is, “Yup. It’s just a song.” And life goes on. It’s certainly a healthier approach than Nicki Minaj. Just be reasonable, eh? If your 8-year-old starts to dress like Erik Danielsson from Watain, you may need to step in.
I guess the best I can say about being a heavy metal parent on the subject of God and religion is the same as always, honesty. Talking about things is always better than hiding them (except porno for example). I don’t believe in the Christian definition of God but if my kids choose to, that’s fine. I will try and dissuade them once they are old enough to understand the big picture sure, but everyone makes their own choices. All I can do is explain to them why I don’t believe anymore, play as much anti-religious metal around the house as I can (hoping the message seeps in subliminally) and go from there. And not judge. In the hope that others follow suit. In the meantime I’ll have to sit through my middle child’s First Communion later this month and listen to my family’s disappointment in me if they ever read this installment.